Currently reading: Thieves stripping parked cars amid parts shortage
War- and pandemic-related supply problems means thieves cash in on demand; surge in Midlands cases

Thieves who had been stealing high-value cars are now targeting and stripping smaller cars in a major region of the UK as demand for parts grows. 

A dearth of spare parts, due to supply problems caused by the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, has fuelled this, the head of West Midlands Police’s Vehicle Crime Taskforce (VCT) told Autocar. 

In January alone, nine cars parked in the Birmingham area – including three Citroën C1s – were pillaged, with parts including body panels taken. At least three more cars had been targeted in the months leading up to Christmas. 

Among the most recent victims was Samantha Rose, a nurse, whose Renault Clio’s bonnet, lights and other parts had been taken from outside her Selly Oak house in the early hours of 30 January. 

Two other cars had been targeted in the same area that night. Many of Rose’s colleagues had also been victims. She said: “It’s being done in broad daylight [in the hospital car park] while they’re doing a 13-hour shift. They’re coming out at night and their cars have been stripped.” 

This surge in car crime has been brought on by the growing demand for spare parts, according to detective superintendent Jim Munroe. 

Munroe, who leads the VCT, said: “What we’ve seen over the last 12-24 months is an increase in vehicle crime, particularly theft of motor vehicles, and that is being caused by what we believe to be a parts shortage and supply issues after the pandemic and because of the war in Ukraine.” 

Since being formed last September, his taskforce has recruited 35 officers and staff. During just one week in February, the team arrested more than 50 suspected car criminals across the region. 

Although it’s most prevalent in the Birmingham area, parts theft is rising across the UK, according to LV General, which has seen an increase in motor insurance claims associated with the theft of parts. 

It said that since 2017, theft of steering wheels has risen by 133%, with demand for airbags, gear levers and dashboard components also doubling. 

The average claim cost for a steering wheel and airbag is around £7000. The most expensive claim was £41,000 for a vehicle that had to be written off when its entire dashboard was stolen. 

LV said thieves are selling stolen parts to garages who then offer them to customers at significantly lower prices than equivalent new ones. 

LV underwriting director Alex Hammond-Chambers-Borgnis said: “We’re seeing an increase in the theft of spare parts by opportunistic thieves keen to make some extra cash. This is also being fuelled by the fact that car parts are currently in very high demand as a result of global supply chain disruptions.”


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Is car parts theft a new thing?

Vauxhall corsa vxr front three quarter

We have seen this before. Car parts thefts first came to national attention in 2013 when Vauxhall Corsas were targeted, leading police to coin the term ‘Corsa cannibals’ to describe the thieves.

They believed demand for the stolen parts was being fed by young and inexperienced drivers in need of cheap parts for their cars following accidents. The phenomenon died away until summer 2018, when the Corsa cannibals struck again with a spate of parts thefts in Solihull.

Over one weekend, thieves stripped bonnets, grilles and headlights from four Corsas, bringing the total number of reported offences in the period to 11.

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The Apprentice 26 March 2023
Its simple and a lot safer than trying to sell a stolen car. Buy a cheap motor with a smashed front end legally, nick a front end of parts, fix the broke one and sell it as all good for a lot more, again legally ... all major credit cards accepted.
scrap 23 March 2023

Crime is completely out of control in the UK, thanks to this government.

jason_recliner 23 March 2023
Jebus! Those cars must have been parked there a while!
Bob Cholmondeley 23 March 2023

No, the thieves know what they are doing and strip cars fast.

jason_recliner 24 March 2023
That's awful but impressive. Shame these weeds don't put their skills to anything productive.